The inning Installment #3
Time for the first installment of the Inning here in week 3 of Spring Training.
1. Deep in the Heart of Texas… – We have already discussed the future of the Astros at length a few times in this series, so i will skip all the lead in. I want to talk about someone we will see this year in Houston. George Cuyco, rumored to have been a major sticking point in the failed Armando Cabanas to Houston dealings earlier in the year, is having himself a spring. Cuyco, the 12th ranked overall prospect, is slated to start this year in Houston according to scouts, and the 22 year old 1B/corner outfielder is ready to the first wave of young talent to hit the field. He was quoted as saying the following over the weekend:
There are a lot of guys in this system that are more talented than people on the outside of Texas think. I think the league is going to be surprised how quickly we adjust as a unit to the next level. We lean heavily on one another day to day, so as long as we have each other, this club is going to be dangerous from day one.
Cuyco will likely be the only regular on opening day from Houstons impressive stock of prospects, though that is unlikely to last. This spring, he is hitting an impressive .400 with 2 HR and 8 runs batted in, and has only struck out 4 times over his last 10 games. This kid should be ready to rake as soon as he arrives. Going back to 2016 he has risen from rookie ball to AAA, has never hit below .317 during that stretch and his lowest OBP was .411 in 2018 after making the jump to AAA. pretty impressive growth for slight framed Arizona native.
Last night was, hopefully, a glimpse at what fans in Houston can expect to see a lot of this year. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game, Cuyco strode to the plate with 2 outs and crushed the ball into the stands for a walk off. His teammates mobbed him at the plate, with Richard Fowler carrying him back to the dugout.
2. Drew Pomeranz finds a pitch, and a new home… Drew Pomeranz has been quietly improving his game over the years. He has actually improved each year since 2015, and was on pace for his best year ever with the Giants in 2018 before a shoulder injury set on the shelf for a projected 9 weeks. A setback just before free agency put his recovery time at an additional 2 months, which really hurt the market for his services. Pomeranz went into recovery privately, and took a unique approach, working with the TB12 organization and changing his diet. The result led to Pomeranz being able to recover quicker than expected, and he was actually able to spend a good portion of the off-season refining his delivery, allowing him to add a new pitch to his arsenal.
Pomeranz has always been a pitcher who strove to keep the ball on the ground, so it made sense that he added a sinker to his repertoire. “My fastball has always had a decent amount of downward movement on it” said Pomeranz, “So it was just a few simple adjustments to really allow the ball to drop off a cliff.” All reports are that his new weapon has a devastating bite. In fact, one rival GM in the AL East has proclaimed Pomeranz a “Top 5 SP in the league” after watching the lefty hurl his new found pitch. 30 year old Pomeranz joins a staff that already consists of 36 year old Justin Verlander and 31 year old Michael Pineda, and slots 4/5 are being contested in Spring Training, but will likely be filled by less experienced, but older pitchers. This move fits perfectly with what the Blue Jays are attempting, which is to win a second division title, and bring home their second ring in the process.
3. Bill Pyke is a monster… The center piece in the deal that sent Manny Banuelos to the Miami Marlins in 2017 has ben hitting the ball very well over the last year plus. In the WDL, Pyke hit .306 with a .408 OBP, knocking 2 HR and driving in 10 runs. This Spring, he has taken up to the next level. As of this writing, Bill Pyke is hitting a monstrous .579 with 3 HR and 10 RBI. He has struck out only once over his last 20 AB’s, and is making an insanely strong case to be handed the starting 3B gig over incumbent Corey Seager and journeyman Nick Castellanos. For a guy like Seager, who has been at the MLB level for years and has been a solid producer, this has to be a concerning stat line. Seager is currently batting on .222, and has seen regular action at the DH spot that was implemented this spring for NL teams. Pyke is currently also seeing time at 1B and LF this spring, but considering 1st is occupied by Miguel Cabrerra and the corner outfield spots are occupied by a plethora of young talented hitters, I would imagine GM Ryan Firefighter would like to get Pyke as much exposure to the hot corner as he can (especially considering he posted an insanely bad -18.4 ZR there at the AAA level in 2018 and committed 20 errors in 150 total chances.
The question then becomes, How much is the Marlins organization willing to sacrifice? They have a number of young arms that would see their numbers suffer severely if you were play Pyke at the corner with his current skill set. Walker Buehler and Alex Watts in particular seem as though they would suffer the most, as they both have a much higher rate of ground outs than the rest of the staff has displayed to date. Are you willing to stunt the tremendous growth some of these youngster have seen? Or do we see the Marlins try and ship off a piece like Miggy who could be a massive bat for a contender? Time shall tell.
1. Rod Swift may not be ready after all… Top prospect and apple of GM Ayden Dugmore’s eyes Rod Swift has had a rough spring. Admittedly it has only consisted of 2 starts to date, but neither has been of the quality that Dugmore and the Indians have hoped for. In his first start Swift went 4 innings, allowed 3 runs on 7 hits and walked none. Not horrid, especially for your first spring outing. Rod was placing the ball well, and last all 4 innings he was allotted. Swift then took a long rest, 7 days, and pitched again on the 28th. This is the outing we will be focusing on here today.
Rod Swift lasted 2.1 innings, surrendering a total of 10 runs and 3 HR to the Baltimore Orioles on that day. He still only walked 1, but that ballooned his ERA to 17+, and he did not look sharp at all. The Indians let him work through the first two innings despite surrendering 5 runs in each, and even sent him back out to face one more batter in the 3rd. Swift certainly seemed relieved to be pulled in the 3rd, but I have to imagine that his coaches showing faith in him to head back out after a disastrous first two innings boosted him a bit.
At this time, Swift remains with the big league club in ST, and I would imagine he will be given at least one more opportunity to start before a decision is made on him. Long term, this is nothing to worry about, as the future is ridiculously bright for Swift and there is no rush for Cleveland to rush him if he will stumble. The clock for the Indians is still a year or so away.
2. Jeffery Moore is down… again…. Off season acquisition Jeffery Moore is carrying a heavy load on his shoulders. When he was acquired during the annual MLB-Pro player auctions in early January, Dodgers GM Sam Shoopmeyer proclaimed his belief that Moore would become a “Superstar” in Dodger blue. While none in the league will ever question his pure talent, there are certainly some concerns about his production to date. Moore’s spectacular 2017 season is sandwiched between 2 subpar seasons, where he hit .220 and .238 in 2016 and 2018 respectively. In those 2 seasons he struck out almost twice as often as he walked, and while he played good defense at the corners, he never displayed a massively impactful ZR in center, where the Dodgers plan to slot him in.
This spring, Moore was off to a slow start, batting .083 over his first 4 appearances. And then came the injury. This is Moore’s 5th injury of at least a week or longer in the last couple years. Leading some in the league to question his long term viability as an everyday Centerfielder. Replacing him in the short term will be another former Atlanta Brave, Luigi Rodriguez. While Luigi played quite well last season, he is by no means Jeffery Moore.
3. Joey Votto looks done… Joey Votto has been trending down for years now. From 2015 to 2018 he has lost 84 points on his batting average, 69 points on his OBP, 205 points on his slugging %, 86 points on his OPS+, 7.9 points on his WAR, all while his power numbers have decreased each year, down from 36 in 2015 to 14 last season. While Votto remains a work horse, he is currently just waisting at bats for the potential replacement Rafael Castillo (who would really just be a place holder for Dan Katz anyhow). This spring is more of the same Votto, who is batting .111 so far in camp, and has looked less than enthused entering what is all but guaranteed to be a completely wasted season in Detroit, as the Tigers are staring at a long uphill climb to relevancy.
Votto still has the ability to hit the ball, and is not a total liability in the field, but his decreasing production and monster contract will make it tough for Jim Melichar, Tigers GM, to find a new home for him this season, though I am sure he will try.